Fabled Lana Lou’s at 362 Powell Street in downtown Vancouver is the place to be Friday, August 24, for the eagerly anticipated and slightly delayed launch for The Big Note, Charles Ulrich’s even more anxiously anticipated but less slightly delayed magnum opus on the work of the Italian-American composer Frank Zappa (1940–1993).
If you’re one of the almost 2,000 people already clutching your copy of The Big Note, you might be just a little surprised (but also delighted) to learn that you haven’t even missed the book’s official launch yet. So, what’s taken so long?
Good question. Back when New Star and Charles Ulrich started talking about what became The Big Note, The Two Towers was still a feel-good fable dreamed up by some old Oxford Professor Catherwood-type. Charles’s book would be ready 2004, maybe 2005, and might run about 250 pages, because there was going to be A LOT to talk about.
However, the author cautioned, he’s a popular / rockular music kind of a guy, and when he got to FZ’s classical and electronic workouts, he wasn’t going to have so much to say. You are, he warned, going to get some two- or three-page chapters. (The chapters he was talking about ended up running seventeen, eleven, and eight pages.)
The FZ estate didn’t help, once they’d cleared away some of lawyers who had come out onto the field of play, by creating what we called Zappa’s paradox, releasing a steady stream of new and surprisingly fresh material from “The Vault”. Every posthumous release, even if it hadn’t demanded a fresh chapter of its own, shed enough light on what had come before to require constant revision to “finished” chapters.
“Great, whatever,” I hear you say. “But that doesn’t explain why you waited three months since you released the book on Mothers’ Day to ‘launch’ it now on August 24. Did you just forget?”
Not exactly. It did take a while for everybody’s availability, the venue, and the band to align. “We’d love to,” Tony Bardach of secret Vancouver musical legend Slowpoke and the Smoke said when we asked them to play at Charles’s launch. “But we’ll need a little time to rehearse.”
The other thing that got in the way of launching The Big Note sooner was The Big Note’s very bigness. During sixteen years that Charles spent working on it he contacted hundreds of musicians, technicians, music scholars, fans, tape traders, &c., chasing down leads, while participating in on-line forums read by tens of thousands of the kind of person that turned out to be interested in a book about all this. Along the way, the Internet started treating Charles like some kind of expert on the subject.
So when word got around that Charles’s long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated muffin was finally available in actual molecule format, there was a lot of pent-up consumer demand ready to hit the “buy” button. The internet has gone gaga about The Big Note, as you can see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here. The first printing melted away like a fresh pallet of Facelle Royale at the Costco, and we were just too busy trying to keep up with orders to do much, you know, publicity and stuff like that.
We were even worried for a while there that we might run out of the first printing before we could hold the launch, and before the second printing got here, so we socked some away. So a limited number of May 2018 first printings of The Big Note will be available at the launch alongside the essentially identical August 2018 second printing. Completists will want both, of course, and Charles Ulrich will be on hand to sign copies.
This is one hot August night you won’t want to miss. Lana Lou’s opens their doors at 8. There shall be no cover.